South Korean tennis player Chung Hyeon has suffered a hard-fought loss to world No. 1 Roger Federer in their latest meeting.
Federer defeated the 26th-ranked Chung in straight sets, 7-5, 6-1, in the quarterfinals of the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Indian Wells, California, on Thursday (local time). Chung gave Federer all he could handle in the opening set before running out of steam in the second set.
Federer has only lost three sets this year and has matched his previous best start to a season, which came in 2006, when he opened the year 16-0.
This was the first showdown between the two since the semifinals at the Australian Open in January, when Chung was forced to retire in the second set because of blisters on his foot. Federer went on to win the championship for his 20th career Grand Slam singles title.
In this meeting, Federer needed just eight minutes to go up 3-0 in the opening set. He was down 40-0 in the second game before rallying to break Chung.
But just when a rout appeared to be in the offing, the South Korean started battling back, winning the next three games to pull to a 3-3 tie.
The two traded games and were locked at 5-5, before Federer pulled away to take the set 7-5.
Federer built another 3-0 lead in the second set and didn't let Chung creep back into the match this time, keeping the South Korean on the run with an array of outstanding shots.
"I was down one break, and I'm just trying to stay calm, and I'm just trying to learn from Roger," Chung told ATP Tour's website. "And I come back, 5-all, and he played good: 7-5, 6-1. I'm really happy to play against Roger."
Federer won 70 percent of his first serve points, compared with 53 percent for Chung. The Swiss great also had 12 aces -- the last one on match point -- while Chung didn't have any, and Federer broke Chung's serve four times.
Despite the loss, Chung is still having a fine season. He has a record of 15-6 this year and has reached at least the quarterfinals in five consecutive tournaments, dating back to the ASB Classic in New Zealand in January.
Chung began the year at No. 58 in the world rankings but has jumped 32 spots since, thanks in large part to his run to the semifinals at the Australian Open in January.
He's set to reach a new career high of No. 23 on Monday, which will make him the highest-ranked Asian player in ATP this season, ahead of Kei Nishikori of Japan. Nishikori, who once ranked No. 4, has fallen on hard times of late and is currently sitting at No. 25. He hasn't played since losing in the round of 32 at the Mexican Open on Feb. 26 and will drop to No. 30 next week.
"I'm really honored to be the No. 1 Asian," Chung told ATP Tour's website. "And Kei is playing really good and is a great player in the world, and I hope he plays good this year."
No South Korean tennis player, male or female, has ranked higher than the 21-year-old.
This was Chung's first quarterfinal appearance at a Masters 1000 tournament. The Masters 1000 series is the third-highest tier of ATP tournaments after the four Grand Slam events and the season-ending ATP Finals. Players earn more ranking points at these events than the 500 series and the 250 series tournaments. (Yonhap)